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Did the Anglo-Saxons Number Their Kings?

10/23/2014 • Ask Mr. History

Did the Anglo-Saxons number their rulers? I came to this question when I was looking at the list of English monarchs, and saw two Edwards before Edward the first; they are: Edward the Martyr and Edward the Confessor. Both were kings of England, but they weren’t numbered. I searched in Net information about this, and many answers told me the same thing: The Saxons didn’t number their rulers. That’s why Edward Longshanks was “the First” instead of “the Third.”  Others said that the Normans wanted to destroy any memories from the conquered enemies. I was nearly convinced, when I remembered Harold and Edgar, because they were numbered. And were Saxons. My mind now is a mess.

Could you help me solving this problem, Mr. History?

—Diego

? ? ?

Diego,

English history can be divided between Saxon and Norman kings. Both, it may be added, often tacked sobriquets to their kings, so Edgar I could be “the Peaceable” and Edgar II be more popularly known as Edgar the Aetheling. Similarly, Harold I was Harold Harefoot and Harold II, Harold Godwinson. Not much contradiction, really. If the Plantegenets were more prone to use numbers, it was because they produced more successive monarchs in their longer run with the same name, necessitating it.

Sincerely,

 

Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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